Now, you have to admire an address that’s rigidly precise when it comes to the correct use of the apostrophe. None of this pitching pesky punctuation, as Waterstones recently did, to the horror of London’s literati.
Fussiness about retaining an apostrophe in St James’s Gardens neatly reflects the sort of homeowner on this hushed 19th century enclave built by speculative builder Charles Richardson as part of the Norland Estate. Until recently, this was solid True Blue Tory British territory, but suave Russians with ‘on trend’ facial hair can be found queuing for red leg partridge at high-end butcher Lidgates around the corner.
Small shops and businesses are a feature – a veterinary clinic, newsagent, Granta Publications and Portobello Books – lining broad and leafy Addison Avenue running up to St James’s Gardens. The main focal point on the Gardens is the Lewis Vulliamy-designed church, with Miss Delaney’s Nursery School tucked at the back. A splash of cosmopolitanism is the concealed Spanish and Portuguese synagogue on the south side.
Georgian-style and Victorian villas surrounding the churchyard garden are mainly low-built and arty looking. Agas in basement kitchens, topiary window boxes, original shutters, pianos, busts and piles of books shout a scholarly back-story. A kindle is still something to help light a fire, rather than an electronic reading device.
There’s the odd flat and maisonette (Crayson just sold a rather smart one with high ceilings and its own 42-foot garden), especially on the north side leading into Darnley Terrace. But, this is mainly family house country, with private Norland School handily placed on Holland Park Avenue, and Shepherds Bush and HP Tubes a short walk for banker dads whisked to their City desks via the Central Line.
St James’s Gardeners’ main preoccupation is where to get a fine Bloody to kick off Sunday brunch. The answer: The Academy, where beef goulash with new potatoes costs less than a tenner. Other local favourites include Julies, the rock chick of the restaurant world, and the Cowshed, with its lazy, knackered, saucy, horny or spoilt (take your pick) cow range, and bullocks products for urbane urban men.
And we needn’t worry about the future of high-end car manufacturing. Porsches, Audis and BMW’s are almost the exclusive choice on the streets, where parking’s surprisingly easy. Even the average nanny would ferry little Violet and Bertie round in an A-series Mercedes, so it’s not all bad in this west London garden community.